The Weirdest Lizard in Australia: Meet the Thorny Devil

The thorny devil on the prowl.
The thorny devil on the prowl.

Hailing from Australia, the thorny devil or Moloch horridus is by no means the biggest lizard in Australia — but it’s definitely one of the weirdest.

While they may be small (on average, they grow up to eight inches in length), thorny devils aren’t helpless. They’re covered head to toe in spikes — a purely defensive feature. If the spikes don’t ward off predators, the lizard has a habit of tucking its real head down and displaying its larger false head, which is a knob-like appendage in the back of its neck.

Image: Flickr/ Jean and Fred

They are also able to puff up their body to make it larger and harder to swallow if a predator decides to try and eat it.

When not showing off its fake head, the thorny lizard likes to eat ants — sometimes up to 3000 in a meal. Extremely lazy predators, these animals will wait near ant trails and use their sticky tongues to catch any that wander by.

Australian Thorny Devil, eating some ants

Its collection of thorns and grooves on its back are helpful for more than defense; they also help it acquire water. As water collects on its back as it walks through dewy plants, it drips down toward its mouth, allowing it to quench its thirst.

What fascinating creatures!

WATCH NEXT: Lion vs. Buffalo: When Prey Fights Back